Second Coming: Caught Up to Meet Him—the Rapture

The Rapture: One in the Field by Jan Luyken (Bowyer’s Bible, 1795).

At some time before the Second Coming of Christ, faithful saints—those on earth who are still mortal and those who’ve died—will be caught up to meet Jesus in the sky.

Sounds like something I want to be part of. How about you?

There’s plenty of chatter going on about the rapture online and I thought I would re-explore a Latter-day Saint perspective on it.

So, why is called “the Rapture” and when will it take place?

Definitions of Rapture

In ordinary English, rapture means “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion [or a] a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion.” To many Christians, the Rapture means being caught up or swept away to meet Jesus in the air at a special time preceding His Second Coming.

The word rapture doesn’t actually appear in any English translation of the New Testament, but a form of it appears in the Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome in the late fourth century AD where is appears as a declension of the Latin rapior.

The Greek word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, a key New Testament text for the Rapture, is ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha) which means “to seize, carry off by force . . . to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly . . . to snatch out or away” (see The Online Greek Bible for 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

With the Trump of God

An important text supporting this event is found in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians, just mentioned. Here’s verses 14–17:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14–17; emphasis added.)

It’s interesting that the Greek word for cloud (νέφος, nephos [ne/fos]) can mean several things: a cloud, a mass of clouds, or, metaphorically, a cloud or multitude of people. This reminds me that Jesus will not be alone when He comes, for Jude quotes Enoch saying that He “cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (see Jude 1:14; compare 1 Thessalonians 3:14).

When the Resurrection Began

The resurrection of the dead began with Jesus on Easter Morning, or as some prefer, Resurrection Morning. He was the “firstfruits of them that slept” (see 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23),but others were resurrected at that time as well. Matthew writes of the time shortly after Christ’s death and Resurrection:

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:52–53; compare 3 Nephi 23:9.)

It follows that possibly many saints have been resurrected since that time and, hidden from the knowledge of the world, will continue to be resurrected until they appear when Christ appears “in the clouds.”

Enoch’s Translation

Speaking of Enoch, he and his city of sanctified souls were likewise caught up to heaven before the destruction caused by Noah’s flood (see Genesis 5:19–24; Moses 7:68–69). For context, Enoch was translated some 70 years before Noah was born, and the flood occurred when Noah was about 500 years old. Yes, 500 years. People had long lives before the flood—and apparently used their time to get into a lot of trouble.

Enoch’s translation is a type of the Rapture which will likewise protect and preserve believers from the destruction that will occur during what is commonly believed by many as the tribulation, a seven-year period that will include a “great tribulation” before Christ’s foot rests upon the Mount of Olives (see Zechariah 14:4; compare Doctrine and Covenants 45:48–53).

This tribulation is much disputed. Views on the timing of this and other end-time events abounds. Click here to view a section of a Wikipedia article with brief comparisons.

The Tribulation

The Savior told four of His disciples in a private meeting on the Mount of Olives that when His followers see a desolating abomination they were to immediately flee Jerusalem:

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21; emphasis added).

For centuries, much has been made of the tribulation—also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (see Jeremiah 30:7)—by scholar and laymen alike. Some believe that this tribulation has been happening since the time of Christ; others see it concentrated in a seven-year period, during Daniel’s seventieth week, so called, and immediately preceding “the day of vengeance” (see, for example, Isaiah 63:4; see also “day of vengeance” under Vengeance in the Topical Guide).

During this season, the “tribulation saints” and others who remain on earth after the Rapture will be tried and tested “such as was not since the beginning of the world” (see Matthew 24:21 above).

I’m unsure of the Lord’s timing and I try to not get wrapped around the wrong axle, but it is clear a rapture of both resurrected and living saints will precede Christ’s decisive return to the earth. How much before, I don’t really know.

Modern Revelation about the Rapture

The Doctrine and Covenants also speaks of this amazing day:

And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—they are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God. (D&C 88:96–98; compare D&C 109:75; see also D&C 78:20–21; emphasis added.)

So when Christ comes again, He will come with “tens of thousands” of saints and will be joined by many thousands, probably millions, of saints who are yet mortal or who have not yet been resurrected. Those who will be resurrected at this time will be “first caught up to meet him” (emphasis mine).

A Spectacular Moment

The Lord hinted at this dramatic time in His Olivet discourse when He said:

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Matthew 24:40–41; emphasis added.)

What a spectacular moment this Rapture will be! Imagine when potentially millions of the faithful are caught up to heaven: people taking a test at school, working in factories, riding on a bus, flying in airplanes, going about their normal business. Gone.

But an even more important moment is this moment. What can we do, you and I, right now to better prepare ourselves for this mind-blowing time we’re living in?

P.S. I’ve collected over a hundred online stories about Rapture and end-times dreams and visions; you’ll find them here. Yes, not everyone has the purest motives when sharing dreams or visions and the impressions of other persons have little bearing on you; however, there is some consistency in the details and timing, and hundreds, perhaps thousands are sharing. Given the times, they’re something interesting to consider.

Originally published in 2015.